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Tyler Gaul's Magnificent Green Freedom Machine
Tyler Gaul's freedom machine is a green 30 hp wonder. Some even call it a miracle.
The 10-year-old son of Tom and Martina Gaul, New Vienna, Iowa, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of four. As young as he is, being a part of what's happening on the farm is an important part of Tyler's life, so when the disease finally forced him into a wheel chair, he spent a lot of time watching from a distance - and wishing.
Then his mother had an idea. "If only he had a tractor he could get around on," she wished out loud one day.
With encouragement from his cousin Loren Gaul, Tom decided to make a tractor for Tyler. Tyler already knew what he wanted it to look like and that it had to be green.
Tom says Loren is a mechanical wizard and has an extensive farm shop. He volunteered his shop, tools and time. Neighbor Terry Steffen also provided his labor, design ideas and support in working out the numerous details involved in the massive electro-hydraulic project.
They started collecting junked and discarded machines and parts. News of the project spread through the community. Salvage yard operators and equipment dealers began to donate parts and even whole machines. A 30 hp diesel engine came out of a Mustang skid steer loader. They also salvaged a lot of parts off a Case 1830 skid steer loader with a bad engine.
"Once we had the engine and the Case loader, we were able to begin work," Tom says. "The 1830 became the base for the tractor. We stripped everything off of it, including the lift arms, until all we had left was the frame. Then we used a chop saw and split the frame lengthwise right down the middle in order to make a platform on back to hold Tyler's wheelchair."
They set the rear end from an old Chevy Chevette between the two halves of the 1830 frame, making a platform out of expanded steel. The two rear wheels came from an old ground-driven John Deere 6-row planter. "They're standard 6-bolt wheels that fit the loader hubs," Tom says.
A hydraulically raised and lowered ramp behind the operator's platform gives Tyler easy access to the machine. "It's built low to the ground - only about 10 in. up," Tom says.
In front, they built a sturdy frame of square steel tubing that extended forward 6 ft. or so.
On the end of this frame, they added a front axle built from square steel tubing that pivots in the center like the front axle of many lawn tractors. The power steering cylinder is a used cylinder salvaged from a Deere 300 series garden tractor.
On the front frame, they mounted the engine and the hydraulic pump. They had to buy a bell housing so they could couple the pump to the Yanmar engine. They found an abandoned Yanmar radiator at a radiator shop in Dubuque that was made just for that model engine. The air filter, a hydraulic oil filter and oil cooler, and dozens of electrical connections, switches, hydraulic relays, etc., are all under the hood.
In the process of cutting the frame, they also had to cut the fuel tank. So they welded plates over the open ends of both halves and used one for the fuel tank and the other for they hydraulic reservoir. The capacity of the hydraulic system is about 11 gal., which is more then enough for the little tractor.
From the hydraulic pump on the engine, they ran hoses to a hydraulic motor that drives the Chevette rear end. Gears on the ends of the axle shafts power the original chain drives that powered the wheels on the skid loader (now the rear tractor wheels). There is no transmission but the hydraulic motor can be reversed, so Tyler can back up.
They built a roll cage from 2-in. square steel tubing and topped it off with the top of the cab from an old Deere tractor.
They added a dash and cowling from an old 4440 Deere tractor along with gauges for engine, amps, coolant temperature and oil pressure and temperature. A toggle switch on the dash sets the parking brake. Another raises or lowers the ramp. The hood from a Deere 2940-2950 tractor fit just right - with some minor modifications.
Exhaust pipes had to be custom made to fit the engine and tra


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2001 - Volume #25, Issue #5